The New Challenges for the Sealant and Adhesive Formulator Part 1

Posted on 2/20/2014 12:24:12 PM By Bob Braun

In my last post, I reviewed the activities and results of the January 26-28 ASTM C24 meeting in Ft. Lauderdale. In this post, I will begin a review of the historic versus the newly evolving challenges for the modern formulator.

I began my formulating experience in the early 1970's with the Sherwin Williams Company in Chicago.  At this time, a major shift from solvent/oil based coatings to water based coatings was in process.  My projects at that time mainly focused on improving the appearance, stain resistance, and scrub resistance for latex coatings.  There were, of course, environmental issues associated with this movement to water based products as well.  However, ease of use and easy water clean-up were perhaps bigger issues.

By the early 1980's I began working in the foam and foam sealant formulating area with Insta-Foam Products Inc. in Joliet, Illinois.  My formulating challenges initially focused on product improvements related to shelf-life, appearance, and physical properties.  By the late 1980's the CFC issue came front and center and the primary need focused on maintaining a full product line using newer environmentally acceptable blowing agents.  Of course, throughout this period, minimizing the raw material and production cost while maintaining at least equal or better product performance was a major requirement.

By the late 1990's the focus on sustainability began to blossom.  Initially the drive for energy efficiency was paramount in this initiative.  Gradually, over the last 15 years, this has developed into the many complex metrics now part of the USGBC’s program, LEED v4.  If you wish to familiarize yourself with the various LEED rating systems, you can do so here.

Basically, the modern formulator today must contend with all of these historic issues related to a developing a new product and now ever-increasing sustainability requirements.  The LEED v4 credits related to the use of greener chemistry is one of the newest credits.  USGBC has termed this “avoidance of chemicals of concern.”  LEED points are awarded based on the avoidance of any chemical found on one of several hazardous chemical lists (often referred to as Red Lists).   This may be formulators’ greatest challenge to date because, in many cases, formulators have been depending on these chemicals for the best product durability and performance. 

Which chemicals are of concern? Many heavy metals, carcinogens per California's Proposition 65, many phthalates, Bisphenol A, TDI, MDI, and many chlorinated and brominated organic compounds.  For the complete list and the USGBC dialog related to materials of concern in building products check out this link.

With all of the input and dialog from the many associations, companies and groups over the last several years, it is recognized that quantifying the health and environmental effects from a chemical of concern is very complicated.  To help a bit with this, Google provided USGBC a grant in 2012 to explore the effects of materials and to increase marketplace awareness and adoption.  More information on this program is available here

Note that there is more than one way to gain LEED points by “greening” your product.  Avoidance of red list products is of course one such way, but full ingredient reporting and material optimization is a second way.  You can check-out USGBC's website on “Building product disclosure and optimization - material ingredients” here.  Things start to get more complicated here; I will go into more detail on this in my next post.

Finally, you should know that there are currently three online courses offered through USCBC’s website to further explain the development of the “green” issues underlying LEED v4 and the “Chemicals of Concern” program:

  • Materials and Chemicals of Concern and the Red List (On-Demand)
  • Avoiding Toxic Chemicals in Commercial Building Projects
  • Materials Chemistry Using Science to Ensure More Responsible Manufacturing

For complete descriptions of these courses, click here

In my next post, I will delve even deeper into the evolving challenges for formulators of adhesives and sealants.  I will go even deeper into the LEED v4 chemicals of concern issues and look at how this affects both the actual building LEED rating and specific product marketing issues as well.

Any Questions? Anything you'd like to see in the future on any topic? 

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